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Ahmaud Arbery’s murderers fight to get hate crime convictions overturned

The three white men who killed Ahmaud Arbery after chasing him with their vehicles and fatally shooting him for jogging in their neighbourhood are appealing their hate crime conviction.

Attorneys for Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael and William Bryan appeared on Wednesday before the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia, just hours away from where they murdered the 25-year-old Black man.

A demonstrator holds a sign that reads, “Justice for Ahmaud” after three men murdered Ahmaud Arbery while he was on a jog in their neighbourhood (Getty Images)
A demonstrator holds a sign that reads, “Justice for Ahmaud” after three men murdered Ahmaud Arbery while he was on a jog in their neighbourhood (Getty Images)

Arbery was murdered while he was on a jog in a suburb of Brunswick, Georgia in February 2020. After spotting him, Greg McMichael and his son, Travis, armed themselves with guns and chased Arbery while driving vehicles. Their neighbour, William Bryan, joined them and recorded footage of Travis McMichael murdering Arbery in the street.

It took local police three months to make an arrest, even though officers had arrived on the scene shortly after Travis McMichael fatally shot him.

In state court, a jury subsequently convicted the three men of murder in 2021, with another federal jury convicting them of hate crimes — as well as attempted kidnapping — in 2022. The hate crime convictions came after prosecutors demonstrated the men made racist comments online and in text messages, often using racial slurs and advocating for racist violence.

All three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery are appealing their hate crime convictions handed down in 2022 (AP)
All three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery are appealing their hate crime convictions handed down in 2022 (AP)

Bryan and Greg McMichaels’ lawyers argued these comments do not prove they murdered Arbery because he was Black, with Bryan’s attorney J Pete Theodocion even stating that including the messages in the trial had a “prejudicial effect” on the jury.

Meanwhile, Travis McMichael’s lawyer Amy Copeland based his appeal on a minor technicality, arguing that US prosecutors incorrectly labelled the street they killed Arbery on as a “public street” in their indictment. This argument comes after prosecutors revealed Travis McMichael commented on a video of a Black man playing a prank on a white man, claiming he would kill the Black man. The comment also contained a racial slur.

The McMichaels are currently serving two concurrent life sentences without the possibility of parole. Meanwhile, Bryan is facing a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 30 years. The three men initiated the appeals process in May 2023 and received their court date two months ago, in January 2024.

Ahmaud Arbery and his mother Wanda Cooper-Jones (Family)
Ahmaud Arbery and his mother Wanda Cooper-Jones (Family)

All three men will remain in jail even if they win their appeal, given they are already serving life sentences for murdering Arbery.

Last year, Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones told The Independent she was glad to see Georgia pass hate crime legislation, meaning future cases of potential hate crimes will not have to be tried in federal court, as Arbery’s case was.

“Change has come and if someone who looks like Ahmaud decides to run down the street and they are gunned down by people because they don’t look like them, then those people can be charged,” Ms Cooper-Jones told The Independent.